The Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) president, Advocate Sidney Pilane is fighting a bitter war to defeat his colleagues, Advocate Duma Boko of Botswana National Front (BNF) and Dumelang Saleshando of Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in the battle for the soul of the UDC.
The coalition party, which also comprise of the Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) is at war with itself, the centre of dispute being accumulation of power by the involved leaders. In a new twist of events, BCP and BNF found themselves fighting against the axis of Pilane’s BMD as well as the BPP. The new warfare has been launched under the legality of the coalition constitution, which has caused what look likes an impending procreated battle.
The BNF and BCP leadership announced during their party conferences held during the presidential holidays that a new constitution, signed by only Boko and Saleshando was submitted to the Registrar of Societies. This has however been contested by the other contracting partners, BMD and BPP. Part of the objection by the duo is that the constitution submitted by Boko and Saleshando is not what has been agreed during the Negotiation Stream and Upper Negotiation Stream. There has also been a dispute on whether the talks were taking place between BCP and the UDC or it was between BCP and other three coalition partners.
The constitution submitted by Boko and Saleshando is an amended version of what was agreed by the negotiation streams including the upper stream. The amendments came about following the contested UDC February 2018 congress held at Boipuso. The amendments made to the initial constitution delivered by the negotiation team include; creating one Vice President position, as well as restoring the powers of sitting president as provided for by the republic’s constitution when UDC is in power.
Other provisions, in the constitution submitted by Boko include giving the UDC president power to make unilateral decisions such as expelling a member of the UDC from the coalition as well as the power to repossesses constituencies from contracting parties for re-distribution. This submission of the constitution, which observers said it will deal decisively with Pilane, was followed by the resolutions of the two parties to reclaim constituencies allocated to BMD, a contracting partner expect the one held
The constitution submitted by BMD and BPP to the register of societies is the one delivered by the negotiation streams, but without the input of the disputed congress. The constitution recognizes that the four contracting partners are equal members and sets out how the coalition will behave when in power with regards to the exercise of the executive. The constitution is clear that once UDC wins power, the country should immediately go through constitutional review that will see what the party envisages become part of the national constitution.
These powers in essence include, a president with curtailed powers. The power will be vested in what is called President’s Executive Council to comprise all the president of coalition partners. Article 11 .5 indicate: ‘The executive authority of the Republic of Botswana shall, when the UDC is in power, vest in the President’s Executive Council, which authority shall be exercised jointly.
This power will include the power to appoint cabinet, head of public service, permanent secretaries, ambassadors, Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice and other senior members in the public services. The constitution also express clearly that president of the UDC, shall be the State president, while Fist Vice President, one occupied currently by Pilane would be Deputy President, while the Secretary General of the UDC would Second Vice Presidents of Botswana. The BPP, which occupies the chairperson position, is guaranteed the most senior position in cabinet. The power to appoint cabinet minister is also taken away from the presidency and given to the executive council.
WHAT PILANE FEARS
If Boko and Saleshando’s submitted constitution see the green light, Pilane would lose his power within the UDC and in the future government of the coalition wins power. What currently obtains is that BCP and BNF are looking at giving Pilane and his BMD a non-deal by reclaiming all his constituencies except two where it is incumbent. This will strip Pilane off bargaining power within the party and leaving his influence in the affairs of the UDC insignificant.
Secondly, a proposed one VP constitution will compel the contracting partners to convene a congress where either Pilane or Saleshando will be given the post. As things stand, Saleshando undisputed favourite to take the crown, which would essentially leave Pilane in the lurch.
Pilane also does not want constitution proposed by his two colleagues because it will effectively give power to the UDC Congress as opposed to UDC NEC as Pilane hoped for in his constitution. In Pilane’s view, congress is not necessary because UDC is just an electoral arrangement and the true power should lies with the NEC. Pilane currently has the support of BPP NEC as well as Boko, who has been protecting him for some time now. Boko has made it clear that he is not in favour of anything that would break the UDC.
DUMELANG SALESHANDO PERSPECTIVE
I have hitherto refused to comment on the controversy that has been sparked by the submission of the UDC constitution to the Registrar of Societies. It is possible that some may interpret my silence to be a tacit admission of guilt to all the claims by the leaders of BPP and BMD on why the constitution should not have been submitted for registration. I still do not see the need to respond comprehensively at this stage and allow the leader of the UDC as the chief spokesperson space to address the issues raised by our colleagues.
For the benefit of BCP members and supporters, to whom I remain accountable, I just want to make the following 3 points clear;
1. The BCP in 2016 entered into negotiations with the UDC. The UDC (BPP, BNF and BMD) decided that they will not negotiate as separate entities but as a single unit under the leadership of Comrade Duma Boko. The stream that negotiated the constitution had six BCP representatives while the UDC also had six. Claims that each of the four parties had two representatives are false, there were two parties to the negotiations each represented by 6 people.
2. It was agreed that the final decision makers on all issues shall be the presidents of the UDC and the BCP. This point has been made by none other than Boko in the numerous meetings we addressed nationwide last year and never refuted by any member of the UDC until this month. When we signed the agreement on by-elections between the UDC and BCP, it was only signed by myself for the BCP and Boko for the UDC. It was for the same reason that the 2 of us signed off the constitution for submission to the Registrar of Societies.
3. Both UDC and BCP agreed to subject the constitution to congress scrutiny and approval by our members. Both sides knew that some of their proposals may be rejected by congress. The two presidency model for the UDC was a brainchild of the BCP leadership but this proposal was shot down by congress. That is how democracy works, the voice of the membership has to be respected.
It is has been difficult for me to understand why people who left the BDP because of a leader who did not respect congress decisions want to propose that a committee of 16 people (UDC NEC) should have powers over congress. Strange, very strange… The position of the 2018 BCP congress is that the UDC should be fixed as it is clearly broken, broken by all of us who are its members. If it cannot be fixed, it must be reconfigured urgently as we are running out of time. Not fixing it will amount to PLAYING FIDDLE WHILE ROME BURNS
Government is currently sitting on 4 400 vacant posts that remain unfilled in the civil service. This is notwithstanding the high unemployment rate in Botswana which has been exacerbated by the recent outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.
Just before the burst of COVID-19, official data released by Statistics Botswana in January 2020, indicate that unemployment in Botswana has increased from 17.6 percent three years ago to 20.7 percent. “Unemployment rate went up by 3.1 percentage between the two periods, from 17.6 to 20.7 percent,” statistics point out.
Leading commercial bank, First National Bank Botswana (FNBB), expects the central bank to sharpen its monetary policy knife and cut the Bank Rate twice in the last quarter of 2020.
The bank expects a 25 basis point (bps) in the beginning of the last quarter, which is next month, and another shed by the same bps in December, making a total of 50 bps cut in the last quarter. According to the bank’s researchers, the central bank is now holding on to 4.25 percent for the time being pending for more informed data on the economic climate.
An audit of the accounts and records for the supply of food rations to the institutions in the Northern Region for the financial year-ended 31 March 2019 was carried out. According to Auditor General’s report and observations, there are weaknesses and shortcomings that were somehow addressed to the Accounting Officer for comments.
Auditor General, Pulane Letebele indicated on the report that, across all depots in the region that there had been instances where food items were short for periods ranging from 1 to 7 months in the institutions for a variety of reasons, including absence of regular contracts and supplier failures. The success of this programme is dependent on regular and reliable availability of the supplies to achieve its objective, the report said.
There would be instances where food items were returned from the feeding centers to the depots for reasons of spoilage or any other cause. In these cases, instances had been noted where these returns were not supported by any documentation, which could lead to these items being lost without trace.
The report further stressed that large quantities of various food items valued at over P772 thousand from different depots were damaged by rodents, and written off.Included in the write off were 13 538 (340ml) cartons of milk valued at P75 745. In this connection, the Auditor General says it is important that the warehouses be maintained to a standard where they would not be infested by rodents and other pests.
Still in the Northern region, the report noted that there is an outstanding matter relating to the supply of stewed steak (283×3.1kg cans) to the Maun depot which was allegedly defective. The steak had been supplied by Botswana Meat Commission to the depot in November 2016.
In March 2017 part of the consignment was reported to the supplier as defective, and was to be replaced. Even as there was no agreement reached between the parties regarding replacement, in 51 October 2018 the items in question were disposed of by destruction. This disposal represented a loss as the whole consignment had been paid for, according to the report.
“In my view, the loss resulted directly from failure by the depot managers to deal with the matter immediately upon receipt of the consignment and detection of the defects. Audit inspections during visits to Selibe Phikwe, Maun, Shakawe, Ghanzi and Francistown depots had raised a number of observations on points of detail related to the maintenance of records, reconciliations of stocks and related matters, which I drew to the attention of the Accounting Officer for comments,” Letebele said in her report.
In the Southern region, a scrutiny of the records for the control of stocks of food items in the Southern Region had indicated intermittent shortages of the various items, principally Tsabana, Malutu, Sunflower Oil and Milk which was mainly due to absence of subsisting contracts for the supply of these items.
“The contract for the supply of Tsabana to all depots expired in September 2018 and was not replaced by a substantive contract. The supplier contracts for these stocks should be so managed that the expiry of one contract is immediately followed by the commencement of the next.”
Suppliers who had been contracted to supply foodstuffs had failed to do so and no timely action had been taken to redress the situation to ensure continuity of supply of the food items, the report noted.
In one case, the report highlighted that the supplier was to manufacture and supply 1 136 metric tonnes of Malutu for a 4-months period from March 2019 to June 2019, but had been unable to honour the obligation. The situation was relieved by inter-depot transfers, at additional cost in transportation and subsistence expenses.
In another case, the contract was for the supply of Sunflower Oil to Mabutsane, where the supplier had also failed to deliver. Examination of the Molepolole depot Food Issues Register had indicated a number of instances where food items consigned to the various feeding centres had been returned for a variety of reasons, including food item available; no storage space; and in other cases the whole consignments were returned, and reasons not stated.
This is an indication of lack of proper management and monitoring of the affairs of the depot, which could result in losses from frequent movements of the food items concerned.The maintenance of accounting records in the region, typically in Letlhakeng, Tsabong, and Mabutsane was less than satisfactory, according to Auditor General’s report.
In these depots a number of instances had been noted where receipts and issues had not been recorded over long periods, resulting in incorrect balances reflected in the accounting records. This is a serious weakness which could lead to or result in losses without trace or detection, and is a contravention of Supplies Regulations and Procedures, Letebele said.
Similarly, consignments of a total of 892 bags of Malutu and 3 bags of beans from Tsabong depot to different feeding centres had not been received in those centres, and are considered lost. These are also not reflected in the Statement of Losses in the Annual Statements of Accounts for the same periods.